Friday, August 29, 2008

Return to the Jazz Concept Album

Some "Travelers" embark on a journey, led by a "Peaceful Warrior" who shows them the way to their destination; but wait! The great warrior's "Nemesis" steps out in front of the group, taunting them, taking a small child from the group and shouting "Riddle Me This" at the top of his lungs in a menacing fashion and asking terrible questions until they are forced to follow him "Into the Labyrinth." The warrior fights and eventually beats the nemesis, shouting "'Karma''s a bitch!" at the top of his lungs. The travelers exit the labyrinth and stop at a "Roadside Distraction" before finally breaking into a "Harvesting Dance" when they've finally reached their destination. The warrior is showered with "Praise" for the way he handled the fight with his nemesis, and the "Afterglow" of the whole incident stays with the group of travelers, following them wherever they go.

That, as far as I can discern, is the plot of Aaron Parks' "Invisible Cinema" (complete with song titles) and, yes, when you view the record in that light, it comes off as overwrought and more than a little corny. Parks has made a point out of not giving away the plot he came up with to the press (it would cease to be "Invisible"), but I think my overview was vague enough as to fit pretty much anything he could have come up with. Point is, the song-titles are really lame.

The music, however, is another story. Like Mathias Eick's "The Door-" a better album than "Invisible Cinema," but don't let that give you the wrong impression of Parks' record- Parks' work manages to imply the feeling of some rock music more in spirit than in sound. "Nemesis" features a 7/8 feel that reminds one more of Radiohead's odd-tempo work-outs than Brad Mehldau's. The compositions are, for the most part, great, although certain tracks drag on for a bit too long. "Peaceful Warrior," which features an interesting, catchy head, eventually is bogged down in lengthy solos from Parks and guitar player Mike Moreno. The same goes for "Harvesting Dance," which, in spite of an interesting chord progression and some interesting work from those two and the other sidemen Eric Harland (drums) and Matt Penman (bass) also goes on for too long.

With those exceptions, however, "Invisible Cinema" is a pretty tight record at about a 50 minute length; unlike some other records from young people recently, it doesn't wear out its welcome, and there's enough going on for multiple listens. Recommended.

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